2004. Dandora: The Madiga movement for equal identity and social justice in A.P., Social Action, 54, 2: 184-209
Bandhuseva Mandali was established in 1981 by first generation Madiga employees under the Presidentship of Dr. Kishan Lal,
which inaugurated the era of prayers and petitions. There was a proposal to name the association as Madiga Sevamandali. That
was discussed and rejected by a majority of members, in the grounds that the name ‘Madigavaru’ is a perverted
form of ‘Madiguvarar’ which means ‘people below us’. Madhava Rao, former President of Bandhu Seva
Mandali, organises Dasara Milap every year in the Twin Cities, a cultural function of Madigas [f]. Various cultural programmes
were conducted on these occasions. Through this association the organisers strengthened the kin feeling among the Madigas
in the Twin Cities (7). In 1982, the Mandali published a booklet with the title ‘Status of Arundhathiyas’ with
detailed statistics showing the inequalities between Mala and Madiga sub-castes in various fields. Through this document,
the Mandali demanded categorisation of SCs into A.B.C.D. groups for the distribution of reservation benefits in proportion
to population of each sub-caste (8). This document marks the turning point in the Madiga movement. The Mandal had chosen prayer
and petitions as a method to ventilate their demands. The Mandali made representation to the successive Chief Ministers of
A.P. demanding proportional representation in all fields. Political response in the form of a promise came from Telugu Desam
Party in the 1982 Assembly election.
Struggle Phase of Madiga Movement
Andhra Pradesh Madiga Sangarn was the first Dalit Association established with stigma-carrying sub-caste
name, in the year 1982 under the leadership of Dr. Vidya Kumar (9). It began the militant struggle phase of the Madiga movement.
This Sangam gave a number of representations to the governments in the 1980s for equal shares in the fields of education,
employment and politics, by providing separate quota for Madigas. Its activists entered the State Assembly in 1982 while the
session was going on and threw pamphlets from the visitors’ gallery, titled ‘Separate reservation for Madiga’.
Consequently twelve activists of the Madiga Sangam were convicted by State Assembly for throwing pamphlets
in violation of the rules of Assembly proceedings (10). The activists also demanded the appointment of an inquiry commission
for the redressal of Madigas’ grievances. After some time the Sangam gave up its struggle as its activists felt that
categorisation would have to be done only by the Parliament of India.
Dakshina Bharatha Adijambhava/Arundathiya Samakhya was established
in 1990 to organise the Madigas of South India to fight for their rights, with Bangalore as their Head Quarters (11). Sri
D. Manjunath was elected as President, and Chikka Venkata Swamy and Dr. M. Jagannath of A.P. were elected as General Secretaries.
Dr. N. Venkata Swamy and Dr. M. Jagannath were also elected as President and General Secretaries of the A.P. State wing. The
mythological identity of Arundhathi and Jambavantha was chosen by the organisers as a common name acceptable to all sub-castes
who were traditionally leather workers in South India. The A.P. wing organised three successful public meetings.
The then Chief Minister of A.P., N. Janardhan Reddy, promised to do justice to Madigas. The first notable meeting was held
on 12th June 1992 at Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad (12). They also organised a public meeting in Nellore District of A.P. in
1994, with one lakh Madigas, and demanded categorisation of SCs into A.B.C.D. groups. The most significant meeting organised
by Samakhya was held on 2nd May 1994 in Nizam College grounds of Hyderabad, at the instance of the Congress Government headed
by Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy. During those days, the Congress party organised a series of sub-caste meetings of SCs/BCs/STs in
A.P. to consolidate its vote bank after witnessing the success of the B.S.P. and the S.P. combine in U.P. In this particular
meeting, Congress C.M. Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy criticized B.S.P. leader Kansi Ram and requested the Madigas not to listen to
such north Indian leaders who criticized Gandhiji. Then the audience shouted ‘We listen! We listen!’ indicting
the readiness of Madigas to follow the North Indian Madiga leader Kansi Ram and his Bahujan movement (13). A few days after
this public meeting, Koneru Ranga Rao, a Madiga leader, was made Dy. Chief Minister of A.P. by the Congress Party with the
sole purpose of retaining the Madigas with the Congress Party and stopping the growth of the B.S.P. in the state. It bears
clear testimony to the fact that Madiga leaders of the Mandali and Samakhya worked as organic intellectuals and entered into
bargaining politics and were successful in capturing some political space at various levels.
Assertion of Madiga Identity
The Dandora Movement emerged
in changing socio-economic and political conditions of the state. The conditions prior to its launching clearly indicate factors
that shaped the movement. By the 1980s, Madigas were released from leather goods work which they had inherited as their traditional
occupation, as the landlords stopped buying the hand-made leather chappals and leather goods of Madigas and started buying
from chappals made of synthetics and rubber from urban shops. As a result, Madigas who depended on leather work became unemployed.
The Madigas feel that their due share from reservation benefits has been cornered by Malas. Anti- and pro-Mandal movements
in the State have given rise to new terms of political discourse. Mandalisation of politics questioned the continuance of
upper caste leadership in Marxist and non-Marxist parties. Naxalites like K.G. Sathya Murthy and Gaddar who were prominent
leaders in the People’s War Group of CPI(ML) left the party over questions of caste politics. Mandal discourse reduced
the caste blindness of Madiga youth working in Marxist and non-Marxist parties and it sharpened their caste consciousness
(14). During the early 1990s, BSP’s slogan ‘Vote hamara raj tumhara nahi chelega, nahi chelega’ had gone
to every Madiga street and enlightened them on the importance of their votes as a source of political power in India. The
whole process sharpened Madiga consciousness, particularly of the youth, in favour of struggle for their rights.
The Madiga movement entered its struggle phase with Dandora. This phase was led by unemployed full-time activists with a
different outlook on disabilities suffered by the Madigas in the traditional socio-economic and political structure. Most
of its leaders were former Marxists who left the party as a result of Mandalisation and Bahujanisation of state politics.
Reservation Porata Samithi emerged as a fighting organisation in these conditions, with special qualities of its own in the
history of social movements. This organisation was established by 20 youths at a small kutcha house in a small village, by
name ‘Eedumudi’ in Prakasam District of Andhra Pradesh under the leadership of Manda Krishna Madiga on 7th July
1994 (15). The participants of the meeting worked out a strategy to develop M.R.P.S. step by step from
village to Mandal, Mandal to District and from District to State level. They resolved to adopt the philosophy of Dr. B.R.
Ambedkar and Babu Jagjeevan Ram as the guiding spirit for Madigas’ rights.
Struggle for Equal Identity
and Social Justice
Madigas’ struggle for equal
opportunities is the struggle for equal identity and social justice, from the very beginning. Due to their relative backwardness,
the Madigas are not able to avail reservation benefits equally, compared to their co-sufferers, the Malas. It is a fact that
the special-treatment benefits have often been appropriated by the more educated, articulate and organised in S.C. cornmunities
Jagjeevan (16). As per the Census of India, the Madigas constitute 37,37,609 (46.94%) and the Malas 32,63,675 (40.99%) of
the SCs population. But the Malas had been cornering reservation benefits disproportionate to their population. […]
From 1,07,579 matriculates, 53.15% belong to Mala caste, 28.02% to Madigas, 15.58% belong to Adi-Andhra, 1.33% Adi-Dravida,
1.90% to others and a negligible 0.002% to the Dakkal community. From 14,415 graduates, 56.28% belong to Mala and 25.07% belong
to Madiga sub-castes. From the rest of the graduates, 16.21%, 1.46%, 0.96% and 0.006% belongs to Adi-Andhra, others, Adi-Dravida
and Dakkal communities respectively. It is evident from these data that there is glaring inequality between major sub-caste
groups, with Mala at the top and Dakkal at bottom in the educational ladder of Scheduled Castes (17). The Scheduled Castes
have been reserved seats in State Assembly in proportion to their population: 39 out of 294 Assembly seats. Out of these,
70.50% and 29.50% of seats were represented by Malas and Madigas respectively. It shows that, from the days of Independence
Malas have been appropriating political positions disproportionate to their population and maintaining their dominance over
Madigas throughout. [Table 1 omitted]
Representative bureaucracy is one of the features of pluralism. It is a necessary
condition that every social and economic group has to be represented in the bureaucracy in a plural society. But the data
pertaining to Scheduled Caste show representation of Malas is (75.90%) more than seventy five percent in public sector undertakings
while Madigas have less than twenty five percent (24.10%). It demonstrates a growing monopoly of one or two Scheduled Castes
in the reserved quota of jobs, defeating the very purpose of a social justice policy. Inequality between Madigas and Malas
in appropriation of reservation benefits in the reserved field of education employment and politics in 1980s negated equal
identity and social justice for Madigas.
Opposing these inequalities and for equal distribution of reservation benefits,
Dandora held a number of programmes and organised Madigas demanding categorisation of SCs into A.B.C.D. groups over the last
nine years. ‘Chalo Nizam College’ on March 2nd 1996, ‘Chalo Assembly’ on September 2nd 1997, and Mahapadayathra
in June 1997 are remarkable in the history of the Dalit movement in A.P. In the first public meeting, Dandora crystallised
public opinion in favour of categorisation of SCs into A.B.C.D. groups, mobilizing about 5 lakhs of Madigas in the Nizam College
Grounds in Hyderabad. In the second programme, Chalo Assembly, Dandora was successful in forcing the Government to appoint
the Justice P. Ramchander Raju Commission of Inquiry to go into the differential benefits of reservation for Mala and Madiga
sub-castes and to recommend the need for categorisation of SCs into groups for equal distribution of reservation benefits.
The third programme, Mahapadayathra (Long March) was a novel method adopted by Dandora to shape public opinion in support
of categorisation. The movement spread to every nook and corner of the state. The leader of Dandora, Manda Krishna Madiga
walked for 1052 km starting from Naravaripalli, the native village of Chief Minister N. Chandra Babu Naidu, to his official
residence in Hyderabad in Padayathra(18). This yathra revealed a massive response from the Madiga community to the call given
by their leader. On the last day of the Padayathra, June 6th 1997, he reached Hyderabad along with lakhs of Madigas and proved
Dandora to be a pioneering social movement in contemporary India. After having witnessed the popular support for the Madigas,
the T.D.P. government issued orders categorizing SCs into A.B.C.D. groups.
It is necessary to understand the struggle of Madigas with the spirit
of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s social justice philosophy. Through reservation he desired to break the monopoly of twice-born
castes. In the Constituent Assembly of India he stated, there shall be reservations in favour of certain communities which
have not had a proper place in the Administration. The Administration for historical reasons being controlled by one community
or a few communities should disappear, and others also must have an opportunity of getting into public services (19). Dr.
Ambedkar felt breaking the monopoly of one or two communities is necessary for the realisation of social justice: monopoly
is the foundation of inequality, whether it is the monopoly of one or a few upper castes or monopoly of one or a few Scheduled
Castes or Tribes. Now the Madigas have been fighting for categorisation of SCs into groups to break the monopoly of one or
two Scheduled Castes, this to facilitate equal distribution of reservation benefits among the 59 Scheduled Castes in A.P.
In fact the struggle of Madigas is a struggle for respectable identity, equality and the social justice. It was argued, equal
identity is equality. Identity cannot be separated from equality, nor equality from social justice. Nor can equality and social
justice be separated from identity (20). The Dandora movement, a pioneering plural-identity movement, triggered similar movements
Plural Identity and Principles of Social Justice
There are 59 sub-castes in the list of Scheduled Castes in A.P. Every sub-caste has its
own identity and existence. The first classification of SCs was done by J.H. Hutton, Census Commissioner of India in 1931,
who prepared a list of depressed classes from these sub-castes. This list was adopted by the Government of India Act of 1935
for providing special protection to the depressed classes. It is notable that the President of India promulgated the Scheduled
Castes Order in 1950 based on the list prepared by J.H. Hutton, following a number of tests to designate Scheduled Castes
primarily based on the principles of commensality practices (21). The Dandora movement demanded further categorisation of
the castes as the list provided by President did not ensure equal distribution of reservation benefits among 59 Scheduled
Castes. The logic that was followed by J.H. Hutton in the designation of Depressed Classes was taken to its logical end in
the categorisation of SCs.
The logic of categorisation of SCs in A.P. is based on the following principles
principle of touchable groups: The caste system divided society into touchable and untouchable groups. The Panchamas have
been untouchables to all four varnas. On the basis of the same traditional caste values, the Malas and Madigas are also divided
into two untouchable groups. In other words, Brahmanic values of purity and pollution percolated down to SCs and divided them
into untouchable and touchable groups. Madiga allied castes and Mala allied castes are touchable groups.
principle of satellite living: Traditional caste values divided Scheduled Castes into Malas and Madigas living in Malapally
(village) and Madiga gudem (collective residence) respectively. Bindla and Mala Ayyavaru are priestly castes of Madigas
and Malas respectively. The respective priests believe that they have common genesis and they share common sufferings and
values. These two satellite castes are considered as groups and the quantum of reservations is decided on the principles of
c) Principle of parallels: The caste system placed different castes at different
places, living in various part of the country. Castes with equal status are brought under one group though they migrated from
different States. The Mangs in Maharashtra and Madigas in A.P. have equal status in the Panchama hierarchy by virtue of their
traditional occupation. Such parallel castes are grouped together for classification of SCs.
of common name: Common name is the feature of a tribe of people. They have common history, common God, etc. All those castes
with prefix or suffixes like Mala, Sale, Dakkal and Madiga are recognized as groups and reservations benefits are distributed
between these groups.
e) Principle of parity in traditional occupations: The traditional occupation
of sub-castes has been the basis for caste hierarchy. Varnadharma allotted a particular traditional occupation to
each caste in society. The ritualistic pandits allotted particular grades to these occupations, and explain them in terms
of the notions of purity and pollution. On the basis of traditional occupations, the SCs are categorized into groups for distribution
of reservation benefits.
f) The principle of protection of group interest:
The quantum of reservation has been decided in proportion to the population of SCs, against the monopoly of one or two castes.
Similarly, no single sub-caste should be allowed to corner reservation benefits disproportionate to their population. Methods
should be adopted for the protection of the interests of each sub-caste. There are Scheduled Castes with a population ranging
from a thousand to lakhs of people in each group. A sub-caste in a group with a lower percentage of population should not
be allowed to comer the benefits that are due to other sub-castes. For the protection of interests of each caste, the un-represented,
under-represented and adequately represented castes should be identified. The first and second priority should be given to
unrepresented and under-represented castes respectively in allotment of reservation benefits in each group. These priorities
should be given in alphabetical order of sub-castes in the respective A.B.C.D. groups [see table below].
The Commission agreed to protect group interests of satellite committees. But did not agree to protect the interest of sub-castes
within the group on the principle of priority. This principle was not accepted by the Inquiry Commission. The minority
castes with A.B.C.D groups are demanding further categorisation of groups.
more the insult and humiliation, the more should be the protection: The Dakkals, Rellis and Mehtars have been subjected to
isolation and humiliation both by Chaturvarnas and Panchamas who treat them as untouchables. Their population is meagre but
they deserve special protection by way of providing more benefits not necessarily in proportion to their population. The Commissioner,
after thorough study of the principles of social structure and traditional occupation, recommended the categorisation of SCs
into the following four groups (23):-
Sl. No. Name
of the Caste
Traditional Occupation (24) Total of Sub-caste
Fruit selling and scavenging 5,244
NA (25) 184
Village watchman 5,410
Dom, Combara, Paidi Weavers,
musicians, drum beaters 23,214
Chasi, Haddi Relli, Chachandi Fruit and vegetable sellers,
sweeping and scavenging
Basket making, bamboo workers
Mehtar Scavenging 4,553
Paki, Moti, Thoti
Scavengers and fruit sellers
SL No. Name of the Caste
Total of sub-caste
Beda Jangam, Budgajangam Hunting, flowers and cultivators
Priests of Madigas, appeasers of
and leather workers
makers and leather workers 519
Dakkal Madiga, Dakkalwar Mendicants, bards of Madigas, leather
and tanning works 2,452
and shoe makers 834
workers and agriculture labourers 983
Fore telling, appeasers of goddesses
Leather, tanning, chappal making
Madiga Dasu, Masteen Spiritual advisers, acrobatics,
to Madigas 5,450
beaters, basket making, mat making,
snake charmers 8,007
Snake charming, buffalo shaving, acrobats,
Begging, singing, tanning
Leather and tanning works
Chindlollu Drama, dancing and prostitution
No. Name of the Caste
Traditional Occupation Total
watchman, palanquin bearers,
weaving course cloth 1,740
Yallmmalwandlu Vagrant caste 358
Gosangi Mendicants 7,653
labourers, serfs, weaving
Sheep and goat rearing 3,550
course cloth, village watch,
Mala Dasari Spiritual
advisers to Malas, agricultural
advisers, acrobatics, story tellers 8,335
Mala Hannai Vagrant
Agriculture labourers 4,895
Mala Sale, Nethakani Weavers,
agricultural labourers 18,272
21. Malasanyai NA 300
dancers and musicians to Malas 2,333
Samban NA 3,233
Name of the Caste
Traditional Occupation Total
(Malas and Madigas)
acrobats, carpenters 2,922
Priests and spiritual advisors to
Madigas and Malas 2,777
in Census NA 1,12,933
The respectable identity movement of Madigas launched by L.C. Guruswamy
eight decades ago entered the struggle phase with Dandora and succeeded in emboldening Madigas in using their caste name as
a suffix, like ‘Reddy’, ‘Rao’ and ‘Sharma’. Once, the word ‘Madiga’ was a
term of abuse, symbol of pollution and stigma, but today Madigas proudly say that they are Madigas, forgetting the word as
abusive and the stigma attached to it. Slowly the word is turning into a symbol of struggle and source of political power.
Inspired by the Dandora movement, Lambada and Koya tribes, Yadava, Gouda and other backward castes came forward to fight for
their rights in Andhra Pradesh, using their caste names as their suffix.
Malas have been enjoying reservation benefits on the grounds of
social and educational backwardness, but they have been opposing the demand of Madigas to take the same logic to the logical
end and categorise SCs into A.B.C.D. groups for equitable distribution of the reservation benefits among the 59 Scheduled
Castes. The upper castes advance unity arguments whenever lower castes demand their due share. By advancing the same argument
Malas proved themselves to be Dalit Brahmanic in their attitude, in order to continue their monopoly of reservation benefits.
The triple identities, Arundhathi-Jambavantha, the Madiga and Dandora, worked as an ideology for mobilising the mass of
people for all the public meetings organised by the Dandora Movement. Their traditional identity which projects them as the
first rulers of the land gave them a feeling of pride in asserting their respectable identity and high image through the movement.
Today, common Madigas also feel that they were the first born on Indian land, reminding themselves of the place of Arundathi
and Jambavantha in Indian mythology.
The schedule in Scheduled Caste is not a single caste: it is a list of castes.
Every sub-caste in the list has an independent identity, having its own place, privileges and occupation in the structured
plural society. Dandora won the battle in proving a need for the protections of rights of every sub-caste, by their categorisation
on the basis of their inherited diverse occupations and backwardness. The Madigas are successful in forcing the State Government
as a plural legal authority to concede their demands and formulate the categorisation policy. The movement worked, believing
in the pluralistic principle that decentralised local authority is more competent to formulate a social policy since the State
Government is more informed of the socio-economic problems of deprived groups than the Central Government. It further established
a precedent in formulating plural principles of social justice on the basis of plural identity. The argument of Malas in support
of a singleness of Scheduled Castes proved to be a futile exercise in the plural democratic set up. It is a classic example
of how a developed community or caste makes use of existing law and machinery to defend its stand on a public policy and advances
monistic arguments for the further development of the caste or group.
Dandora is a movement for equal identity and social justice. It
believed that rights of the weakest among weak, rights of every caste whether it is minor caste or major caste, have to be
protected equally. Dandora demonstrated that monopoly is the foundation of inequality and emphasized that monopoly of any
form, whether it is the monopoly of Brahmin’s or monopoly of Scheduled Castes, has to be broken for realisation of equal
identity and equal justice. In a plural society every caste or group has to assert itself for protection of its identity and
rights. When a disadvantaged group questions the privileges of an advanced group, it naturally gives scope for divisions in
the society. These divisions can be dissolved by finding remedy for the causes of division in disproportionate distribution
of reservation benefits by categorisation of SCs. Reconciliation of more advanced groups is the solution for divisions of
SCs in A.P.
Plural acceptance of single caste leader is a pre-condition for success of pluralist democracy. General rejection of the
leadership of lower castes is apolitical crisis in caste structured Indian society. Rejection of the Madiga leadership for
Mahajan Front tells transitory nature of caste alliances in electoral politics in caste ridden Indian Society. The experiment
of Mahajan Front concludes that caste based pluralistic politics continues with emergence of new alliances like Mahajan Sangharashana
Samithi and Mahajan Party till political consciousness of electorate reaches the higher level maturity to accept lower caste
leader and sub-caste leaders committed to general interests or interests of all castes.
[Chapter in progress]